10 middle school and high school students from the LaPorte area, along with 4 adults, spent their spring break serving others. They traveled to Pahokee, Florida on a mission trip with First United Methodist Church, LaPorte. The group stayed at Pahokee United Methodist Church, who hosted the mission experience. They participated in activities at the church including Bible study, several evening meals, and worship. They also helped at the church while there.
During the week, the group volunteered at a food pantry, painted houses for several people in need, worked at a soup kitchen, spent time with elderly at an adult day care center, and did afterschool activities with neighborhood children. They also volunteered at a mango grove, where they learned about how our produce grows and some of the culture of the area while touring the farm. When asked what their favorite mission projects were, they agreed each one was a great experience. Because of the varied projects, they were all able to find ways to serve using their special talents. Several have decided to look for projects around LaPorte to get involved with after experiencing serving in Pahokee.
At The Gap, the food pantry in Pahokee, they sorted food, organized the storage room, put food bags together, and distributed them. Because there was a shortage of several foods, one participant decided to buy some food to donate to them. Experiences like this trip teach our young people how to be concerned citizens actively involved in serving others.
The soup kitchen, Lighthouse Café, was not just a place for people to come eat. They have helped people get into rehab, have taken people to appointments, and genuinely cared about the people they were serving. Many of the volunteers were people who ate there and then decided to volunteer. One of those volunteers was deaf. He could read lips and speak a little. But, I saw many youth talking with him and learning signs so they could communicate with him.
We painted a house for a Pahokee resident, both inside and out. She was very grateful for the fresh, new look. She had a list of things she wanted done and probably would have kept the group there a month if they had the time because she was so pleased with their work! We also painted a duplex for a housing complex. We met some of the residents there and had a great time getting to know a few of the staff. We got almost as much paint on the walls as we got on ourselves!
When we went to the day care center for Alzheimer patients, we didn’t know what to expect. But, we have visited several places in LaPorte and knew that painting nails was always a hit here. So, we brought nail polish and some craft supplies. When we got there, we found out that they were having a prom the next day! They all excitedly sat down to get their nails painted to get ready for their big day. The male residents were not interested in getting their nails done. So, our youngest mission team member decided to organize a game of bingo. It was great to see all of our youth enjoying spending time with the older generation, and the looks of joy on the faces of the patients was priceless. Afterwards, we sang some songs we hoped they would know, such as “Jesus Loves Me” and “This Little Light of Mine” and everyone joined in for a short sing-a-long.
Armed with play-doh, bubbles, hula hoops, balls, and popsicles, we headed to a local trailer park. Just after we arrived, kids started coming to check out the activities. We played games, sang songs, did a few skits with them, and did a craft project. Everyone had a great time! One youth shared how sad she was when a little boy asked her if she was coming back and she had to tell him no. One of the children told me that we were his new best friends. Our theme for the afternoon was “Love Your Neighbor”. And, that afternoon, love was shown by everyone there.
At the mango grove, the group was eager to learn about the produce and how it grows. They were excited to bring home coconuts, sugar canes, and various other produce. They learned a lot while helping out with some farm chores.
One week of mission has forever impacted the lives of the group that went, and the people they served. If you would like to hear more about their week, the group will be speaking at LaPorte First United Methodist Church on May 3rd, 1225 Michigan Ave. Service times are 8:00, 9:00, and 10:30.